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Is the Apple Watch REALLY Jeopardizing the Swiss Watch Industry?

Image credit: Apple Inc.

Photo credit: Apple Inc.

On Facebook yesterday, my associate Paul Boutros called attention to an article that had posted earlier in the day on the blog of financial website, Barron’s. The article quoted and analyzed J.P. Morgan’s statement, “Demand just isn’t there for the Apple Watch.” For the impatient among you, Paul agreed with Barron’s.

What follows here is an adaptation of my comment on his Facebook post – my current opinion based on some recent (non-trade show) experiences and observations in Las Vegas.

For what it's worth, I recently spent some time as a patient in the Las Vegas healthcare system (let’s just hope what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas).

As a patient, I noticed that many of the nurses were wearing an Apple watch. One told me she loved it for the alerts. "Now I don't have to pull my phone out of my pocket to see an alert."

A year or two ago, I mocked this sort of attitude toward the Apple watch's functionality ("You mean people are too lazy to pull their phone out of their pocket, or too OCD to let an alert go for an hour or two until there’s a convenient time to check it??? Give me a break!")

Now, what I'm seeing recently is totally anecdotal, I know. And it's inconceivable to me, but it's also apparently now true. The ability to glance at one's wrist for a smartphone alert is winning out over simply glancing at the smartphone.

But that’s my commentary on the smartwatch – smartphone juggernaut. Not necessarily relevant to the smartwatch – watch rivalry.

To address that issue, I've also joined FB groups that are dedicated to the Apple watch, and surveyed them about their watch wearing habits. (This was a non-scientific survey, so it’s anecdotal evidence only.)

Virtually every Apple watch wearer I corresponded with did NOT wear a watch before buying the Apple watch. They were buying it as wearable tech, not as a watch. And/or they were Apple fanboys and fangirls. So the Apple Watch was NOT displacing another watch purchase, or another watch on their wrist.

The FitBit may be as much competition - for either the Apple watch, or for a conventional watch. Indeed, my wife just bought a FitBit and is now afraid it will displace her beloved Rolex midsized Datejust.

So, Apple sales numbers aside (and they appear to be sliding if J.P. Morgan’s data is accurate), I question whether the Apple watch (or any other smartwatch of a similar nature) has displaced equivalently priced – or any – conventional watches.

However, I do indeed acknowledge that it's an open question. As a retail phenomenon that's at least tangentially related to our industry, the brands need to pay attention and adjust their business strategies accordingly.

 

-Ed Estlow

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